For years, Anita Flores carried shame: She was a second-generation half-Peruvian who barely spoke any Spanish. She pretended she didn’t care: She muddled through D’s in Spanish class and avoided her paternal family in Lima. Then, her father was diagnosed with dementia, and everything changed.

As a caretaker, Anita took her dad to doctor’s visits and stocked his apartment with necessities. Their relationship wasn’t strained, but it was increasingly focused on logistics. It was often difficult to have real conversations.

When she started to speak to him in Spanish, though — haltingly, at first — she saw him light up. He might have difficulty, in English, telling her what he’d had for lunch that day, but in Spanish he could go into detail about meals he’d enjoyed more than 50 years ago.

For the first time in her life, Spanish wasn’t an academic obligation or a source of embarrassment. It was a way to communicate. To connect.

In this episode, Anita tells the story of her relationship to her father, and to his mother’s tongue. It’s a winding journey that takes place over 15 years, centered on three trips to Lima. Along the way, like many heritage language learners, she finds frustration and discomfort in the Spanish language. But as Anita grew older, she realized language helps you narrow physical distances, strengthen ties — and preserve memories.

Featured photo courtesy of Anita Flores.

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2 thoughts on “En Español

  1. Anita,

    thank you for sharing your story about your father and connecting with your family. My immigrant parents from China felt it best for me to learn English to assimilate and succeed and not retain my parents’ native language. This is one of my biggest regrets – lost of connection to my parents’ when they also were diagnosed with demential and my relatives after my parents’ deaths. I am glad you were able to reconnect and maintain your father’s memories.

  2. Anita,

    Muchas gracias for sharing your story. I found this from a fellow Latina co-worker who shared an IG story about this episode, and never thought it would leave such an impact on me. I am also Peruvian, my mom is and she had me here in the U.S, all though I do speak Spanish — I do lack knowledge of my Peruvian culture, and never felt I belong to either cultures, I was too Gringa for my Latino family and too Latina for my american peers. My dad is dealing with colon cancer and I am taking care of him, similar to how you take care of you dad. It’s hard to see my dad sick and I have to be strong for him, all though there are days were I want to cry and go back to simpler times, ones where where this disease isn’t haunting us.

    Your vulnerability and honesty was so refreshing to listen to, you made me laugh and cry during this episode but most of all, you made me feel that I wasn’t alone and I ended the episode feeling so grateful to be Latina, to be Peruana and to be a good daughter for my papa.

    Gracias por tu historia, please make another episode! I am your #1 fan.


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